Set phasers to shill: William Shatner sings Jim Beam’s praises
At 87, William Shatner keeps boldly going where most has-been TV idols wouldn’t dare to tread. Tonight the Star Trek alumnus makes his debut at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, alongside Jeff Cook of country legends Alabama.
Heckled for his early musical efforts, the former Captain Kirk has improved with age, honing that spoken-word schtick into an endearing growl. We dug his 2004 album written with indie darling Ben Folds. He and Cook recently dropped Why Not Me, a collection of country tunes you might have heard somewhere before, if not for Shatner’s droll delivery.
Sure beats a Romulan ale
Of course, the galaxy-hopping boozehound immortalized by Shatner has his own James T. Kirk Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Next month, Silver Screen Bottling Co. will follow that with Montgomery Scott Blended Scotch Whisky, named after the Enterprise chief engineer played by late fellow Canadian James (Scotty) Doohan.
So it’s only fitting Why Not Me includes the track “Beam Me Up,” which sees Shatner spin that catchphrase into an ode to a certain Kentucky bourbon. When it comes to the art of the shill, this isn’t Bill’s first rodeo.
Lighten up: Don’t let that drink’s color blind you
The browner the whiskey, the better? At Scotchwhisky.com, Cara Laing is having none of it. Even people who should know different often assume that a dark dram is superior to a lighter one, explains the director of whiskey at Glasgow-based independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co. Big distillers fuel this prejudice by adding caramel color.
“I believe more in our approach of: don’t add anything or take anything away,” says Laing, many of whose own offerings look like white wine. “I’ve tried some amazing whiskies that are exceptionally pale, and some of them are incredibly old.”
Sweet Georgia brown: The man who turns wine jars into whiskey
Here’s to the spirit of innovation. In the just plain beautiful onetime Soviet republic of Georgia, rural distiller and winemaker Alexander Kvernadze does things his own way, The Whiskey Wash’s Katelyn Best reports. Kvernadze rewrites the rules by crafting whiskey in a kvevri, the clay vessel long used by Georgians to ferment, store and age wine.
The patent attorney has taken steps to protect his unique and mysterious process. To taste the result, which its creator calls “wonderful,” join Kvernadze and his wife at their distillery and boutique hotel near Tbilisi, the nation’s capital. Georgia is now officially on our mind.
Music lesson: Bourbons that can carry a tune
It’s no secret that whiskey and song go together, but Reid Mitenbuler of The Daily Beast has an intriguing theory: comparing a bourbon to music could help nail its essence. As Mitenbuler points out, rather than use the sensory language so common today, wine critics once described the drink like a novelist delineates a character.
To test his idea, he turns to a handful of distillers. Colin Spoelman, co-founder of Brooklyn-based Kings County Distillery, says its Straight Bourbon “has the same notes as Alt-Country, a defunct and ill-defined genre that found inspiration in an old and deep tradition in American music.”
At Illinois’ FEW Spirits, founder Paul Hletko likens his Bourbon Whiskey to the Grateful Dead: “Those that love it, love it. Nontraditional, proudly experimental, and not afraid to fail.” It’s on the traditional side, but Jerry and the boys did a mean “Whiskey in the Jar.”
20 bottles for richer and poorer
Sticking with bourbon, VinePair’s Tim McKirdy offers this top 20 list for every budget. First up: Evan Williams Black Label (average price $12*) out of Kentucky, “an entry-level bottle you’ll actually want to drink,” heavy on the caramel and vanilla.
On the middle shelf, we’re drawn to Chicago-based Koval’s Single Barrel Bourbon (average price $48), whose millet-corn grain mix “provides a unique-tasting fruity bourbon, rich in tropical notes.”
The high end? Pull up a Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel Straight (average price $90) by Kentucky’s Buffalo Trace Distillery. McKirdy’s take on this 50% ABV, bottled-in-bond number: “refined, complex, and full of character”—and one of the best bourbons under $100. Music to our ears.
*All prices in U.S. dollars
Hot shots: Whiskey Instagrammers worth a look
Instagram has its hazards, but it can be a force for good. Nicola Carruthers of The Spirits Business shows how with her favorite whiskey-themed accounts. We like Peat & More, a Finnish effort featuring bottles in the rugged outdoors. Also Scotch Trooper, whose mix of whiskies, glasses and Star Wars action figures recalls a pre-Instagram Mos Eisley cantina.